Rye beekeeper, Simon Mulvany is a tireless champion for bees. He founded grassroots social enterprise, Save the Bees’, in 2014. Since then, through action, education and advocacy he has changed the landscape for Australian bees, beekeepers and honey consumers alike.

His mission is to educate people about the importance of bees. With his encyclopaedic knowledge, Simon speaks passionately to schools and community groups. He has published extensively across social media platforms and through his website. His love of bees goes back to childhood.

Simon’s grandparents had a house in Mornington. The family spent holidays in nature on the Peninsula. As a boy, Simon enjoyed foraging, diving and fishing. A serendipitous conversation with a fisherman friend led him to beekeeping. The pair bought a couple of hives and his fascination with bees really took off.

Though science might have seemed the natural path, Simon went to university to study Commerce. He quickly realised it was not for him; he’d rather be surfing. Commerce was a bit dry, but the knowledge he gained in that coursework proved useful later in his David versus Goliath legal battle with a giant of the honey industry.

Outdoor work appealed most to Simon. After leaving university, he travelled around Australia. Amongst other things, he dabbled in pearl diving in Exmouth, WA. When he returned home, he worked as a park ranger in Sorrento where he first discovered the deadly impact of pesticides on bee populations. Simon ran his own gardening business for many years and learned there were better, less toxic, ways of dealing with weeds and pest insects that didn’t harm bees.

Unbridled passion led him into full-time work as a beekeeper and bee educator. “Working with bees made me a kid again. I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the hive,” he says with an appropriate measure of glee. Simon loves spreading his boundless enthusiasm, but his zeal has also landed him in hot water. Naturally, Simon encourages people to choose high-quality honey sourced from their local producers, but when he was vociferously vocal about a particular brand, things got sticky.

Photos: Yanni

When Simon started beekeeping, he found knowledge about the practice a closely guarded secret. He learned everything on his own through research, trial and error. Then, he shared his knowledge freely. “’Save the Bees’ is the Wikileaks of the bee industry,” he says.

Simon has single-handedly saved over 500 bee colonies from extermination. Working as a bee rescuer for many years, he removed bees from unsuitable locations and rehomed them safely. For the most part, he did it for free because he has a heart for bees. It was a win-win. He got a hive to tend and the swarm was removed. “Bee removals gave me the ability to see how harmoniously they live in their natural environment,” he says.

He knew bee swarms scared people, but Simon wanted to show there was nothing to fear if handled properly. Also, saving bees is good for everyone. They are a critical link to life on Earth. “Everything about the hive is medicinal. Pollen, propolis and bee venom all have healing properties,” he says.

Additionally, honey has many benefits. It helps with sleep and positive dreaming. It can aid sunburns and heal wounds. It soothes a sore throat and supresses coughs. It even makes bones stronger. Honey is a natural anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial/antifungal agent in addition to its nutritional benefits.

To give back to bees and promote their health, Simon advises avoiding commercial pesticides/herbicides and using organic alternatives. Don’t get rid of weeds or wait until after they have flowered. Bees like them. Leave out water with a stick or rock for the bee to climb on so it doesn’t drown. Plant bee-friendly flowers and herbs. Grow your own food. Consider beekeeping.

Simon is proud that he’s brought a deeper appreciation of bees and attracted new beekeepers to the industry. His free online honey map has been accessed over a million times linking countless buyers to local beekeepers. A point of particular pride was using his influential platform to prevent a proposed large-scale pesticide spraying Simon believes would have decimated the Peninsula’s insect population.

Simon is hoping to celebrate his ten-year ‘Save the Bees’ milestone with an event that honours the humble bee on World Bee Day, May 20. Watch his website and ‘Save the Bees’ Australia socials for the latest buzz.

Peninsula Essence – March 2024